Notes from the field: September
I'm Giulia, one of the new field assistants working on Andrea's Varecia Project and I've just finished my third expedition at Mangevo. These last three weeks in the field have passed by happily and quickly, especially thanks to the good weather: when it's sunny and dry living in the forest is easier!
My role on the project consists of collecting nutritional data as Nina's assistant while she is analyzing the Jan-July nutrition samples in Dr. Jess Rothman's lab. Interestingly, I can already see some differences between last expedition and my first one (in June) and it's surprising how the ruffed lemurs' diet changes throughout the seasons. Now the diet appears to be more diversified, richer in fruits and most of Mangevo community's members spend more time on feeding (or foraging as many fruits are still unripe!). I feel privileged to be able to follow different focal individuals every day in their natural environment and observing their daily needs and choices.
Unfortunately, nature does not always bare witness to pleasant events and two weeks ago my team and I got a proof of this. We left the bushcamp early in the morning to, equipped with our radio telemetry, go look for the days focal, radio Blue, an adult female. After more than half an hour of research looking up at the canopy we figured out that the radio signal wasn't coming from the highest layers of the forest but rather from the undergrowth. We found her collar first, and then we saw clumps of black-and-white hair scattered on the ground, that's how we became aware of her death. The marks on her collar indicated that radio Blue was victim of a fossa. It was a very sad way to start the day but, from an objective scientific viewpoint this is how nature works and it is relieving to know that there are still fossa in the Mangevo area. In the last 20 years fossa populations have dropped by more than 30% and the species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
Of course, I don't want to leave my readers with a bitter pill! I want to share with you some pictures that the other assistants and I took during the last expedition. Not only have the ruffed lemurs and I been enjoying the sun and warmer temperatures at Mangevo, but other species too. This season our camp has seen many other visitors, like some Eulemur rufrifrons (red ruffed lemurs), some Eulemur rubriventer (red bellied lemurs), some Propithecus edwardsi (sifakas) and once I've also seen two Avahi sp.(woolly lemurs)!
Stay tuned because field adventures are not over! Next time I'll pass the baton to another of Andrea's Angels!!!